Dictionary Stories

Very short stories composed of example sentences from various dictionaries.


He turned the brights on, and we drove along the dirt road. A flash of lightning illuminated the house. The lights dimmed and the curtains parted. A misty out-of-focus silhouette. A fiend in human shape.

     The guest house was erected in the eighteenth century. A large white house falling into gentle ruin. The door was wide open. The wind howled about the building. He felt around for the matches. All at once the noise stopped. A profound loneliness, an oppressive emptiness. The creak of a floorboard broke the silence.

     "The time is approaching when you will be destroyed. He sleeps beneath the silver birches. He sleeps beneath the silver birches. He sleeps beneath the silver birch—"

Snake Oil

My friends, let me introduce myself. My name is John. First of all, let me ask you something: Have you heard the news? This astounding piece of good fortune that has befallen me? If I was to tell you, you’d think I was crazy! Promise you won’t tell?

By the year 2000 management as we know it will not exist. There’s nothing we can do about it. I put my heart and soul into it and then got fired. I never saw any signs, but then again, maybe I wasn’t looking. It is not easy to visualize the future. The roof collapsed on top of me. Accusations of bribery. False imprisonment. In the end I completely lost it—I was screaming at them, my friends and loved ones. I did psychotherapy for years—I wanted to find myself.

Realization dawned suddenly. I developed an interest in law, the geometry of spiders’ webs, shrines to nature spirits, psychic powers. The simple truth? I know what I’m doing. I have publicity photographs on my person at all times. I wear this crystal under my costume for luck. If anyone wants out, there’s the door.

Think of being paid a salary to hunt big game! Career opportunities in our New York headquarters! The purchase price is paid in installments. I have it on good authority that there is a waiting list of up to five weeks. My name is Parsons, John Parsons, lord of the sea. Follow me, if you please.

An Extraordinary Woman

He began as a drummer. She studied biology and botany.
He was a man of few words. She was widely read.
He was younger than her. She longed for a little more excitement.
He was warm and tender toward her. She thought he’d mistaken her for someone else.
He walked her home to her door. She matched her steps to his.
He drew a map. She bent her head to study the plans.
He put one hand over her shoulder and one around her waist. She liked the shape of his nose.
They wed a week after meeting.
He worked like a demon. She gave birth to a son.
He was a model husband and father. She strove to be the perfect wife.
He waltzed her around the table. She was forever pushing her hair out of her eyes.
The rest, as they say, is history.
He went out to the store. 
She passed away peacefully in her sleep.
He reached out a hand and touched her forehead.
She was the love of his life.
He went downstairs, holding tight to the banisters.
What an extraordinary woman she was, to be sure.

Portrait of the Artist

I’ve had an argument with my father. He can be a cantankerous old fossil at times—a stout man with a florid face, polishing the furniture and making everything just so.

At my suggestion, the museum held an exhibition of his work: a collection of sculpture, his mature graphic work. His photomontages are powerful antiwar images. I do not believe he gave the industry a fair shake. He was livid at being left out. There was a heated exchange. “I can manage alone, thanks all the same.”

Great art is concerned with moral imperfections. We announce our failures by warring against ourselves and others. Ultimately he has only himself to blame. He is drinking far too much these days. Even Lawrence finally lost patience with him. At his age, I guess he doesn’t frighten any more.

I went for a long walk. Maybe I won’t go back. The park is beautiful at this time of year.


My father was a great one for buying gadgets. A tall man with widely spaced eyes. A cheerful pipe-smoking man of ruddy complexion.

He was born in Seattle. At the age of sixteen he left home, a kid with no more idea of what to do than the man in the moon. He spent a year in the wilds of Canada. He dined outdoors, comforted by the crackling sounds of the fire.

He had a phobia about being under water. A phobia of germs. A snake phobia.

One of my earliest memories is of sitting on his knee, bouncing up and down on the mattress.

(Okay, that’s it, you’ve cried long enough. Come on, silly.)

He was lavish with his hospitality. He was very giving and supportive. He fathered three children. He wrote almost every day. He spoke fluent Spanish. He was a model husband and father, a tenacious local legend.

His bicycle was found close to the start of a forest trail.

I thought the world of my father. You don’t get men like him anymore. We’re in sore need of him.

I would write to him if I knew his address.


The engines stopped, and the craft coasted along. Gulls and cormorants bobbed on the waves. A reverent silence. A memorial to the lost crewmen.

Normally the boat is crewed by 5 people. Team members are more effective than individuals working alone. I had to do it, I had no choice.

This Mixtape is Terrible

1. A maudlin ballad.
2. A choral work.
3. A lovely little music-hall ditty.
4. A whistling noise.
5. A houseful of barking dogs and screaming children.
6. The Song of Hiawatha.
7. Inaudible pulses of high-frequency sound.
8. Taxi drivers honking their horns.
9. Mozart’s symphonies in arrangements for cello and piano.
10. Four-part harmony in the barbershop style
11. A moment of silence presided over by a local minister.
12. The sound of the Beatles.

Another Animated Description of Mr. Maps

The police have arrested a suspect: A man of short stature, he was born and raised in San Francisco. He is an only child, an avid reader of science fiction, a man of unusual talent. He does not lack perception or native wit. He fancies himself an amateur psychologist, a talented young musician, an art collector, a lab technician skilled in electronics. He is a great lover of cats, a celebrated patron of the arts. He was named to head a joint UN–OAS diplomatic effort. He smokes forty cigarettes a day. He has piercing blue eyes, a mass of curly hair. He’s a pretentious son of a gun, but he’s got a heart of gold.

The jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Sir or Madam,

We can take the easy road, the downhill road, or we can put America on the path to greatness again. I am a political animal. I’ve still got belief in myself - Christian beliefs, a belief in Democratic politics. In summary, there is no clear case for one tax system compared to another. We must be seen to keep the spirit of the law as well as the letter. Glaciers are unique and interesting natural phenomena. This fern makes a good houseplant. What was your name again?

Take care,
Lots of love,

How to Play

The game is structured so that there are five ways to win. The best play is to lead with the 3 of clubs. That move will put your king in check. If Black moves his bishop, he loses a pawn, two red aces and a stiff club. If a batter hits a bunt foul with two strikes, he is out. Shuffle the deck, add the numbers together and take away five. Aim for the middle of the target. Each correct answer scores ten points. The magician may cast a spell on himself. There are hundreds of prizes to be won. May the Lord have mercy on your soul.


Before dinner the Reverend Newman said grace: “Heavenly Father. What kind of a heel do you think I am? How dare you talk to me like that! Don’t give me any of your back talk, smart-ass. It’s been an absolute bastard of a week. I sinned and brought shame down on us. As far as I’m concerned, it’s no big deal. You don’t know dick about this—you haven’t a clue! I suppose you believe that rubbish about vampires. The allegations were false, do you understand me? Baseless allegations. I believe in ghosts. Too bad, but that’s the way it is. Why don’t you leave me alone? Go on, get lost! I’ll get mine, you get yours, we’ll all get wealthy. Amen to that!”

Seven Sisters

It was still night when we hit the outskirts of Chicago. The woods were still and silent. The power lines had been brought down by falling trees. Derelict houses were abandoned. We camped out for the night in a mission schoolroom.

Sophie got Beth to make a fire. Lucy saw to it that everyone got enough to eat. Bella sang to the baby. Virginia had a sick feeling in her stomach. Ruth did her best to reassure her.

We all scared real easy in those days. We were everything to each other.

I’ll have that coffee now, if the offer still holds.

The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

A retired teacher. A topiary gardener. An army officer of fairly high rank. A brilliant young mathematician. A highly esteemed scholar. President Kennedy. One of the great stars in the American golfing firmamentDetective Sergeant Fox. The Honorable Richard Morris Esquire, chief justice of the supreme court of our state. When you put these men together, you’re bound to get fireworks. Unfortunately, we do not have the time to interview every applicant.

Underlined words are those responsible for each example sentence.